About Us

A Global perspective

Searles Valley Minerals manages extensive operations in California’s Searles Valley. Power and production facilities cover more than 339 acres at the Argus, Trona and Westend plants in California.

Adjacent to one of the world’s primary ports, Searles Valley Minerals ships thousands of tons of high grade mineral product daily to major manufacturers in 52 countries. Overseas sales account for over half of our annual revenue. The Searles Valley Minerals sales staff has spent years cultivating and actively responding to the needs of markets in Western Europe, South America and the Pacific Rim.

We are more than a commodity producer. Our mission is to meet the needs of our customers around the world with “leadership in services and quality.” Advancing technology around the globe and our rapid response to new demands and opportunities make many things possible — TV sets; personal computers; calculators; digital clocks; books and magazines; clean clothes; a tank of gas; reflective traffic signs.

Management

Avinash Puri
President

Pamela Ford
Vice President, Sales & Marketing

Burnell Blanchard
Vice President, Operations

Don Pemberton
Sr. Director, Finance & Information Systems

Dennis Cruise
Sr. Director, Corporate Controller

TIMELINE

1863

While mining gold and silver in the Slate Range mountains with three partners, an engineer working for John W. Searles complains that the soda from the salt flats below, now called Searles Dry Lake, contained too much borax to properly process the ore. Searles takes samples of this soda to a company that had recently started mining borax near Clear Lake in northern California, but their assay showed no borax. Searles returns to mining gold and silver.
(Photo credit: The Searles Valley Historical Society)

1873

A man who had visited Francis "Borax" Smith at Teel's Marsh, Nevada, shows Searles samples of Smith's borax. Quickly Searles and three partners stake claims to 640 acres of the San Bernardino Borax Mining Company. He uses mules to haul borax in wagons to San Pedro.

1895

Two years before John Searles' death, the San Bernardino Borax Mining Company is sold to the Pacific Coast Borax Company (owned by "Borax" Smith), which shuts down the Searles Lake operations shortly thereafter.

1914

The Trona Railway Company completes 31 miles of track to Trona from the Searles Station junction with the Southern Pacific Railroad. American Trona Corporation establishes the company-owned town of Trona.

1919

American Trona Corporation introduces the Three Elephant brand name for borax. The name indicates strength relative to the competing 20 - Mule Team brand.

1926

American Trona becomes American Potash & Chemical Corporation. Borax production begins at the West End chemical plant.

1932

Exploratory drilling on Searles Lake indicates the existence of a lower salt bed filled with brine, greatly increasing the lake's known reserves.

1962

American Potash & Chemical Corporation develops a novel solvent extraction process to recover boric acid and potassium sulfate from weak brines. They receive national recognition and an award for their innovative process.

1967

American Potash & Chemical Corporation is acquired by Kerr-McGee Corporation.

1977

Kerr-McGee Chemical Corporation begins operation of its new Argus power plant. This is the first large industrial boiler in California fired by coal.

1990

D. George Harris and Associates acquires the Soda Products Division of the Kerr-McGee Chemical Corporation and forms the North American Chemical Company.

1996

North American Chemical Company improves borax mining on Searles Lake and uses this to almost double borax production at the Westend Plant. They also increase soda ash production at the Argus Plant. Finally, they shut down all potash and borax production at the Trona Plant, bringing to an end the eighty-one year history of recovering potash from Searles Lake brines.

1998

IMC Global Incorporation acquired Trona's North American Chemical Company. The North American Chemical Company facilities at Trona and Westend were renamed IMC Chemicals Incorporated to match the name of their parent corporation.

2004

Sun Capital acquires IMC Chemicals Incorporated and renames the business Searles Valley Minerals Incorporated.

2008

Nirma acquires Searles Valley Minerals Incorporated.

Our history

We are as rich in history as the land we mine.

The vast mineral resource in Searles Dry Lake is the result of unique geological forces. These included raising of the Sierra Nevada Range, nearly a million years of volcanic activity and intermittent glaciation. Glacial ice ground the mountains into fine powders easily leached by glacial melt-water and volcanic hot springs brought other soluble minerals to the surface. Together these mineral-laden waters flowed through a chain of lakes where sand and mud settled leaving only mineralized water to enter Searles Valley. Between glacial events, intense desert heat evaporated all the water and the dissolved minerals crystallized, leaving Searles Lake as it exists today with its 16 saline mineral layers separated by layers of mud. The last glaciation followed by drying ended about 10,000 years ago. Today the deposit contains 4 billion tons of soluble mineral salts and extends to a depth of about 350 feet.

(Photo credit: The Searles Valley Historical Society)

Mineral production from Searles Dry Lake first began in 1873. Over a century later in December 1990, Searles Valley Minerals acquired all the mineral and manufacturing assets in Searles Valley. These assets were first developed by the historic companies American Potash and Chemical Corporation and the Westend Chemical Company and later owned by Kerr-McGee, Harris Corporation, IMC Chemicals and Sun Capital before becoming a wholly owned subsidiary of Nirma Ltd. in December 2007. Nirma Ltd. is a private company in India that is a large integrated manufacturer of consumer products (primarily detergents, soaps and salt) as well as of soda ash and industrial salt. Searles Valley Minerals utilizes a unique solution mining technology to extract the minerals from beneath the surface of Searles Lake and recovers these minerals in its three manufacturing plants–Argus, Trona and Westend.

A. Puri Photo

Avinash Puri
President

Avinash Puri is the President of Searles Valley Minerals. He was formerly Executive Vice President responsible for the boron business and international sales at Searles Valley Minerals.
Avinash has spent over 40 years with Searles Valley Minerals and their predecessors IMC Chemicals, Kerr McGee and North American Chemical Company. Avinash joined Kerr McGee, Trona, CA in 1980 as a Staff Engineer and was quickly promoted to Manager Engineering directing engineers at four manufacturing locations.
In 1987 he became the Plant Manager overseeing all locations including a co-generation unit. In 1990, he became the Operations Manager for the California, Colorado and Italy locations. He successfully reengineered the boron operations at the California and Italy locations reducing maintenance costs and increasing on-stream time and restructured the Colorado facility to increase output and improve quality to meet food grade standards. In 1992, he became the Manager of Business Development at the corporate office of North American Chemical Company where he identified acquisition and joint venture opportunities.
In 1995, Avinash became the Director of Commercial Development overseeing new products/applications and strategic market planning. In 1997, he became the Vice President and General Manager – Boron Products responsible for all boron activities, market growth and international sales. He was promoted to President in 2012.
Avinash graduated from Panjab University, India with a chemical engineering degree in 1977. After graduation, he joined the post graduate school at University of Arizona to receive his MS degree in Chemical Engineering in 1979.

P. Ford Photo

Pamela Ford
Vice President, Sales & Marketing

Pamela Ford is Vice President, Sales & Marketing for Searles Valley Minerals and oversees the management of the Sales & Marketing and Customer Service teams.
Pamela has spent over 30 years with Searles Valley Minerals and their predecessors IMC Chemicals and North American Chemical Company.
Pamela joined North American Chemical in 1990 as a Credit Manager, and was quickly promoted to Marketing Business Manager and then to Regional Sales Manager. In 1998, Pamela became the Business Manager for the Soda Products Division under IMC Chemicals. She led strategic and tactical initiatives across sales, marketing, production and customer relations.
In 2000, she became the Business Director for the Soda Products Division, where she managed key customer accounts for both domestic and international sales, and oversaw contract negotiations. In 2004, Pamela became the Director of Sales & Customer Service, and was responsible for domestic sales in excess of $130 million in revenue and the customer service team. In 2009, Pamela was promoted to Vice President, Sales & Marketing at Searles Valley Minerals and she is currently responsible for worldwide sales and marketing and customer service.
She provides direction to plant management on production planning, technical issues, and product development projects. She is a Board Member of SVM’s Safety, Security, Health and Environment Committee, and is charged with development and implementation of policies that support Responsible Care practices.

D. Cruise Photo2

Burnell Blanchard
Vice President, Operations

Burnell Blanchard is Vice President – Operations responsible for engineering, mining, production and utilities operations for Searles Valley Minerals.
Prior to joining SVM, he was the plant manager for Proctor and Gamble’s oleo-chemicals, surfactants and USP glycerin plants located in Ohio and California.
During his 20+ year tenure with P&G, Burnell managed operations throughout the United States as well as in the People’s Republic of China, the Czech Republic, and Puerto Rico.He has implemented rigorous quality systems that have included successful launches of sustainability programs that reduced waste in water use, solid waste generation, and energy consumption.
Burnell has also effectively implemented Lean methodologies as well as team-based high performance work systems.
Burnell holds dual Bachelors Degrees from the University of California, Santa Barbara in Chemical Engineering and Chemistry. He also earned a Bachelors degree in Psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles.

D. Pemberton Photo

Don Pemberton
Sr. Director, Finance & Information Systems

Don Pemberton, Director, Finance & Information Systems is currently responsible for Treasury operations, Risk Management, Financial Planning & Analysis and the Information Technology division.
He joined the company in 1997 and has provided support for M&A activity including the divestiture of 5 different operating companies and the transition of the current company through 4 different ownership structures.

Don graduated magna cum laude from the University of Missouri with a BSBA in Finance and BSBA in Economics while placing in the top 7 in each program. He has held leadership positions at the Federal Reserve Bank, US Central, and Sprint PCS in both the Finance and the IT divisions. He also served as the Vice-Chairman of the Board of Directors for the University of Missouri student federal credit union.

D. Cruise Photo

Dennis Cruise
Sr. Director, Corporate Controller

Dennis Cruise is the Corporate Controller for Searles Valley Minerals, managing the accounting functions, communicating financial results to management, assisting management with the formulation and execution of the annual and five-year business plan, and recommending process improvements.
In his role, Dennis maintains internal controls, financial reporting, cost accounting, cash flow management, receivables, payables, payroll, and shares responsibility for budgeting.
Dennis has been with Searles Valley Minerals for more than 25 years, and is responsible for all SVM Accounting to ensure adherence to GAAP, SOX, and requirements of Nirma India and the protection of the financial assets of the Company.